Hungry Planet

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

When I was in early elementary school, my favorite pastime was reading. I read primarily fiction and was easily captivated by stories– to the point that I was known for being completely unaware of what was going on around me when I was reading a good book.

As a young teen, I continued to read and even became the captain of my middle school’s Battle of the Books team (Battle of the Books is a program in the US in which participants read books selected by the head committee and then compete with other schools’ teams at regional competitions to see who can correctly identify the most quotes from the books).

Now however, the amount of time I can spend dedicated to curling up on the sofa and reading novels has diminished and I now opt to read nonfiction, which helps keep me informed and which doesn’t distract me from my responsabilities. One of my favorite pastimes being cooking, I of course enjoy reading books about food, such as Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Faith D’Aluisio and Peter Menzel.

Hungry Planet features thirty families from twenty-four different countries and the food they eat. For each family, there is a picture of everyone gathered around a week’s worth of food and an accompanying story that is written in such a way as to give insight into the daily lives of the family and the country they live in. Also included is a fact sheet on the country the family is from, which includes information such as the population, the life expectancy, the annual total health expenditure per person, and the cigarette consumption per person per year.

Some of the countries, France for example, are experiencing the same integration of global foods into daily meals that we are experiencing here. In other countries, tradition and food are still strongly linked. In yet other countries, the biggest issue is the scarcity of food.

Reading Hungry Planet is an eye-opening experience. You will not have moved from the couch, but after reading a few of the family stories and some of the essays on food and culture, you will have the impression that you’ve visited the world.

Hungry Planet may not be a novel, but it’s just as captivating.

 

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on October 30th, 2010.

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